Councilmember Catania’s Statement on Revised School Boundary and Student Assignment Proposal

Washington, D.C. – Today, Councilmember David A. Catania (At-Large), chair of the Council’s Committee on Education, released the following statement regarding the Deputy Mayor for Education’s revised school boundary and student assignment proposal:

I would like to thank the Deputy Mayor for Education, her staff, and all those in the community who have contributed their time to the boundary review process. The initial draft proposals included many elements that would have undone our system of matter-of-right neighborhood schools. I am pleased to see that the clear and vocal opposition from residents across the District was heeded and many of those elements have been eliminated.

However, as I have said all along, I cannot support a proposal that forces students from higher performing schools into lower performing schools.  I firmly believe that the real issue has been and continues to be the lack of high quality, matter-of-right neighborhood schools across our city.  Shuffling students between schools and redrawing lines on maps without addressing the primary issue of school quality will only undermine parental confidence and may well result in families leaving DCPS.

Parents across the District share this sentiment and have raised concerns regarding the revised proposal, including the removal of neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River from Eastern High School and the carve out of certain neighborhoods east of Rock Creek Park from the Deal-Wilson feeder pattern.  There are also important questions about the proposed changes to elementary school attendance zones, middle school assignments, and policies regarding out-of-boundary access.

In addition to these concerns, legitimate issues remain regarding the proposal’s impact on DCPS enrollment projections and the resources needed to implement the proposal’s recommended construction of new schools and the realignment of numerous existing schools.  Yet, to date, no such enrollment analysis has been provided and the requisite operating and capital funds have not been identified.  Therefore, it is completely unrealistic to expect that any final plan could be effectively implemented by the 2015-2016 school year.  

The District has waited more than 40 years to engage in this highly complex exercise and any decisions will have far-reaching implications for families and communities across the District.  As such, it is in the best interest of current and future students that we take the time to get the final plan right rather than hastily move forward in order to meet an artificial deadline.  The submission of the Deputy Mayor’s final proposal in September should be the next phase of an important public conversation about how to ensure programs and budgets are aligned in a way that accomplishes the goal of ensuring high quality matter-of-right neighborhood schools across the District. Only after this public conversation takes place and the issues raised above are addressed, will I consider supporting a final plan to revise school boundaries and feeder patterns.

The citizens and public servants who have dedicated their time and energies since last October have my gratitude for taking on this challenging task.  I look forward to hearing from parents and community members at the Committee on Education’s June 26th hearing and in the months ahead.

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